How often do you consider the amount of energy being used when you flip on a light or a room-full of lights? Lighting accounts for as much as 20% of a typical consumer’s overall utility bill and a large percentage of electric energy still comes from coal-fired power plants. We may have read articles of the trend towards cleaner energy power plants, but its still in the pipeline and a long, long, time away. So until then, probably at least the next five years – every wattage of light is coming from dirty coal. By the way, there is no such thing as clean coal – that’s a Madison Ave clever ad slogan.
Although lights are required for many of our daily activities, there are many different cost savings actions you can take to reduce the amount of energy consumed on lighting. It is simply a factor of how efficient your lighting is and how conscious you are about turning lights on/off. Or more importantly turning them on – only when you absolutely need them.
I’m not a lighthouse keeper in Maine, just a typical young professional living in a group house. I just moved into a new apartment that had horrid lighting options. A few really simple, cost-free, relatively effortless measures that I took to minimize my monthly electric bill and more importantly my carbon footprint !
Keep these options in mind as you look around your home or go about your daily chores. The two listed below are some of the easiest energy saving tips for lighting that you can apply directly to your own home.
Switch the Incandescent Bulb to a CFL (Top No-Brainer)
Incandescent bulbs that have been on for more than ten minutes are typically warm, if not already really hot to the touch. This is because 90 percent of the energy used by these bulbs generates heat, leaving only 10 percent to actually produce light. Why these antiques, poorly designed lightbulbs are still used to provide light is a wonder. Pull and toss these energy wasters, the sooner you do it, the better for you and everyone else.
Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are energy saving bulbs, manufactured to replace incandescent lights. A CFL uses 75 percent less energy than the standard incandescent bulb, and lasts up to 10 times longer. Energy Star states that if each home in the US substituted just one incandescent light for an Energy Star qualified CFL, the country would save approximately $700 million in energy costs every year. In addition, 9 billion pounds of harmful emissions would be prevented, equal to the amount of emissions spread by 800,000 cars for an entire year. Really remarkable impact, simply from changing a bulb.
If every home in the United States switched out just one incandescent light with an energy efficient CFL, enough light would be saved to illuminate over 3 million households. Imagine the change that could result if this were to happen along with daylighting and more.
Daylight – bright white – is my favorite shade of lighting. I’ve always loved the look of an open, warm home lit up by the rays of the sun. Plus, there’s no light like free light. Opening the window, raising the blinds, or pulling back the curtain to let light into the house is a great way to save energy and enjoy the sun at the same time. If the sunlight is too bright for your liking or brings in too much heat, you could always partially flip the blinds or push back only one side of the curtains.
Make it a game to see how few lights you can use during the daytime. My absent-minded room-mates go through the house and turn on and then leave on every light as they wind their way through the house in the middle of a sunny day. We are all working on ingraining better lights on/off habits.
Sometimes changing out all the light bulbs in your home and employing other sustainable practices can seem like a daunting task. To ease the transition, here are three simple tips that don’t involve a complete lifestyle change but are just as effective in saving energy.
An obvious but often overlooked option is….. light bulbs that are dirty or encrusted with a film have their light output decreased by as much as 10-20 percent. Simply take the bulbs down and rub them off regularly. It is possible that you do not need a stronger bulb to illuminate the room, only a cleaner one. Plus, you’d be surprised by how dusty the surrounding area is (who knew ceiling fans were dust magnates? I always assumed that they couldn’t collect dust. Shows you how often I clean above my height).
Turn Lights Off
When you exit a room for more than a few minutes, turn the lights off. An unoccupied room does not require light. If you are using fluorescent lighting, turn the light off if you won’t be returning to the room for more than 15 minutes. A few years ago, Green Blizzard installed auto-off light switches in rooms that people usually forget to turn-off the lights and they have really helped to minimize our electric bills. Some switches (Countdown Timers) will automatically switch off after a push-button pre-set time (5, 10, 15, 30 minutes…). Others are motion sensitive on/off switches that turn off if there’s no movement detected – great for basements.
Choose Lighter Paint Colors
Choose colors for the rooms in your home that respond well to light. Remember our Dark vs Light Car Color post? Darker colors absorb light, whereas brighter colors reflect light. Painting the rooms in your house lighter colors will not only help you reduce your lighting needs, save energy, and reduce your carbon footprint, but if you are painting it yourself, you can have some fun with family and friends.
Using lighting to save energy is simple yet effective. These ideas are just a few among many that make reducing your carbon footprint a simple and possible task.
A few other related Green Blizzard articles that you’ll find helpful: Using Sun For Fun, Hybrid Logic, Green Your Dorm Room, White Roofs, Low Flow Shower heads, and The Sexy Environmentalist. Yes, believe it or not, being environmentally-friendly, can be sexy.
Switch To LEDs Now
Here are a few LED lights that Green Blizzard has tried and really likes – buy these online and start saving as soon as you screw-it-in. Be sure to read our recent LEDs Are Now Mainstream article, or else be at risk of looking like a neadrathal.